Another Day Without Immigrants.
Dreaming of Bread and Roses.
While doing absolutely nothing on Monday, it dawned on me: I have been here before, these are my contemplations.
I have participated on Days without Immigrants since 2006, which is a drop in the bucket of organized mass strikes in the US for immigrant justice. Many organizers and advocates across this stolen land have done the same time and time and time and time again. Sometimes the strikes yield small concessions, yet we would not be doing it again unless if those were enough to make a big impact.
I remember the 2004 movie, and delighted in the idea that on Valentines Day out of all days, we would collectively expose the commercialization of love during late stage capitalism. That we would leave restaurant kitchens with reservations backed up, movie theaters as empty as they should be during an ongoing global pandemic, that flowers would be in short supply and large demand. I really really enjoyed the idea of gringos having the worst dates of their lives, their love day (sustained by all sorts of bad industry practices that effectively enslave people of the Global South) totally ruined and exposing themselves in the process byway of American bitching on social media. Call me the grinch of V-day. I imagined total ruin and destruction but understood that it would hardly be that.
First I have to point out that being able to participate in a strike like a day without immigrants in the USA is absolutely a privilege not afforded to many — For starters, accessibility is a big reason why this was not as widely popular as expected. Many undocumented folks simply did not know this day existed. Secondly, we experience the undocumented life differently and that is one hundredth percent because the US has a caste system within its immigrant communities. We are not a monolith. I do not wish to generalize in this statement but a majority of our immigrant community especially within the undocumented community simply cannot afford not showing up to work. Folks can be in positions where not showing up to work means being fired or replaced. Folks can be in positions where not showing up to work can mean that a salty boss calls INS on you or at the very least losing a full day pay can mean the difference between having food or not for the week, undocumented people are in all sorts of positions due to their status in this country... I recognize that it was a privilege for me to sit at home to read, meditate on the other days without immigrants I participated in and drink tea with my kids, as it was a privilege to be able to join organizers from DC at the Eaton Hotel for a complimentary, ethically sourced chocolate making workshop with their Master Chocolatier, who loves and respects Chocolate as the Sacred Medicine it is. Thats privilege. Being able to do something that feels luxurious almost felt like a betrayal and I know thats just ingrained capitalism.
I recognize that the efforts that marches and rallies during that day are always a step further on our road to liberation, as it was direct actions and lobbying efforts, but just as important I recognize that immigrants, self included deserve a day off regardless of politics. Poor people make this country run and so seldom do we experience rest, relaxation, luxury and love. I want to imagine a world where we give everyone not just enough to live but to thrive. I leave you with some portions of James Oppenheim’s poem:
Bread and Roses
As we come marching, marching, in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill-lofts gray
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing, “Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses.”
As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient song of Bread;
Small art and love and beauty their trudging spirits knew —
Yes, it is Bread we fight for — but we fight for Roses, too.
I pledged to myself on Monday that I will fight to give us all not just the necessities but the lovely things too, because the people of the world deserves it all: beauty, passion, art, delicious, decadent, ethically sourced things...
I have been working on new projects and some old ones too, and with passion rekindled, I invite you to check in this publication often, as I jot down more of what is exciting me and keeping me going on the struggle for liberation.
Reverend Leonina Arismendi Zarkovic is DC State Campaign Organizer for Poor Peoples Campaign A National Call for Moral Revival, co-leader of Iglesia del Pueblo, a virtual faith space for action and reflection over on Kairos Center FB Live every sunday 7:30PM and Circle of Creatives Writer for Farmers Footprint.
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